"So what's it gonna take? Silver shadow believer..." -Shiny Toy Guns

Monday, April 27, 2009

Interaction Can Rebuild Trust

Oh yes, Marketing. The glorious field is also an undeniable curse. Once interested in it, there is no going back. Every consumer product is up for subjective criticism, and you can longer watch an ad without having an opinion or go to the movies without pointing out product placement. I had professor in college warn me that such a day would come. He was my Media Criticism teacher, a smart man, who taught me how to decide which way an ad was skewed and to recognize underlying messages in story content. In one sense I am grateful, in another cursed. No longer interested in TV and barely relaxed enough to get through a whole movie, my subjective criticism haunts me.
I now notice if there are only Audi's featured in a film or that Snapple changed their packaging. But, are consumers noticing? Maybe. But are they influenced to buy because of it? Probably not. I find consumer behavior fascinating. But let’s face it, the good ol’ consumer just isn’t as fun to watch anymore and isn’t as easily motivated either. While the behavior is still interesting, it’s very different. We have found ourselves in the midst of uncertain times where consumers, myself included in this, aren’t spending the way they used to. What once worked in ads before doesn't anymore. Or maybe it does, but just not for right now. The best ads these days feature a very simple quality that most advertising was lacking for a long time: Honesty.
I think about my fellow consumer often. Mostly because I am one and it’s my job. My first thought is, “What would I want to hear and why?” The “what and why” are the trickiest part of a system I had adopted from Journalism early on. In trying to comprehend a target audience, I embrace the 5W's, the “who, what, when, where, and why.” And really, when you think about it, this rule can be applied to any situation involving people and communication. In the case of Journalism it's a structure for an interview, or maybe simply an outline to better understand the audience reading. In the case of Marketing, apply them to your product, and again to simply understand your audience's buying behavior. Merely knowing your audience and what they are about is the key to any act of enticement.
This is where I believe we failed so long ago, not only media but society at large. There is no trust anymore, only skepticism. If social media has taught anything about marketing and promoting, it's that people trust their peers. WOM (word-of-mouth) is still a very effective vehicle – now more than ever, consumers rely on people they trust for the answers. Companies need to become a part of the conversation but must do it in an honest way. Start caring about your customers again by practicing a little CRM (customer relationship management) in other words: interact with them. Still aren’t convinced? Consider this, in a time so riddled with ads, where some consumers are immune and others out of tune, and everyone and everything is uncertain, wouldn't it be nice to just be able to trust?

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Need New Fits? Trust in the Celestials, Celes Clothing Company

Anytime I see something cutting edge I’m on top of it, like a cherry on a sundae. When I came across Celes Clothing Company it was their pop art style lips design that I first noticed – so Warhol, so bright, so me, so different. When I caught word that they were launching their new website this year on April Fools’ Day, I wanted to write a little something to give it a push. Since gentle pushes is what I do best.

Celes Clothing Company was founded in 2001 and is based down in Southern California, in the founder’s hometown of Santa Paula. Currently, a lot of what Celes Clothing is doing comes straight out of the bay, right here in San Francisco. The name “Celes” came from the word, “celestial.” Celes Clothing’s founder, Gabe Chavez thought of it one very clear, starry night following a soccer practice. As he was jotting down potential names for the company in his sketch book, he glanced up at the sky and thought, “Celestial” which later morphed into “Celest” and finally found its true title in “Celes.”

“It’s a really simple story, but the idea behind it is enormous. When someone is having a rough day they don’t look down, they look up for help and motivation,” Gabe explained. His passion for Celes originated years ago, while in middle school. “I remember thinking how interesting it was that everyone was wearing some kind shirt, you might think this was a simple observation, but it really got me thinking, about how cool it would be to have these people wear a shirt that I designed.” And so the dream was born and the brainstorming began, and this was the embryo of what would be Celes Clothing Company.

Celes now is a company with multiple designs for casual skate clothing and decks. They focus on skateboarding as an art form and have an awesome new website: www.celesclothing.com. I was incredibly impressed with the art direction and interactive nature of this site. Not only does it exist as a place to purchase, but it acts as a social site as well, offering many other facets, like a Music section, the Celes Skate Team, and Celes Underground.

While the company encompasses many arts, skating is its true basis. Currently Celes skate team has one solo member, Frank Oliva, myspace.com/bighairfrankthetank. “Celes has gone from having about five sponsored skaters to our current team: count of one! Some people might think that this isn’t a team at all, but I’d rather have one skater that is committed and having fun, then a whole team that only wants to receive free stuff now and then.” They are currently offering sponsorships to qualifying candidates who would like to be a part of the Celes family. But, they select their team members very carefully.

Celes Clothing also sponsors up and coming bands. Their website’s Music page is used mainly to promote and expose theses musicians. Gabe’s hope is that it will eventually act as a blog for sponsored bands to discuss whatever they want to. “As with our skateboard sponsorships, we take music sponsorships very serious and delicately,” he told me. Right now, Celes sponsors the band End Transmission, myspace.com/endtransmissionrock. Members include two of Gabe’s childhood buddies, “They are funny, creative, and serious about their music so I believe it was a good decision to have them on board with Celes. Sponsorships just really depend on how good the band is, and how well they fit in with the Celes lifestyle and attitude.” Soon the band Reborn, from Tijuana, Mexico will be joining the Celes family. “They are a Classic Rock / Metal band that will be breaking necks and driving peoples ears crazy with their melodic music,” Gabe told me. Check them out on MySpace: myspace.com/tjreborn.

Of all Celes’ ventures and the different avenues their company and website explore, I was most impressed with their concept for Celes Underground. Celes Underground division will partner with artists of various types in designing one original shirt – that’s right only Uno. Gabe explains the sheer brilliance of the project: “Celes Underground will be a very unique branch off of Celes Clothing. One of a kind t-shirts will be designed not only by Celes, but by collaborating artists, bands, skaters, and anyone you can think of. Because these shirts are one of a kind (and by that I mean only one will be made ever) each will tell a story.” Pure genius. They are to act as collector’s items, each will come with their story in a booklet, will be featured in a custom package, and numbered. Any artists interested in the Celes Underground project can email: underground@celesclothing.com.

Celes is also currently looking for models. Their recent venture the Celes’ “Exposure Series” proved to be a great success and now they are coming up on the “Exposure Series 2.” Skate decks will feature different models from different cities and cultures. Models will receive you guessed it: exposure, and also lots of promotion on their new site. Her persona will be featured on the deck and the coolest part: the deck itself will be named after her! Contact: Celesmodel@celesclothing.com for more information.

Celes is not Gabe Chavez’s only passion he also skates and loves soccer. These elements facilitate the motivation behind the concepts for his designs. Most all of the designs are currently of Gabe’s creation. But he does receive a lot of help from his friends, Sergio Oseguera, Alex Puga, Miranda Ko, Michele Oralnado who are also a part of Celes Clothing Company.

To purchase Celes merchandise, you can do so at their website, www.celesclothing.com or through their MySpace, myspace.com/celesclothingco. Search for them on Facebook, by looking for "Celes Man." Jump on it like I did, before the herd.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Warhol in a Word: There isn’t One

Going to see the Andy Warhol exhibit at the de Young Museum was what my spirit needed more than anything. To be surrounded by genius is an occurrence that even the weakest of heart can take something away from. Absolute brilliance is inspiring. I went knowing I’d enjoy it as my best friend, Noelle had arranged to take me for my birthday. But what I left with was something I had no idea I could acquire in one afternoon, the gift of fresh new ambition.

I won’t lie I am huge fan of Andy Warhol’s work. I like art to be bright, definitive, and colorful. I like it to evoke a feeling of freshness and for brilliant color to wake something up deep inside. Primary colors are pleasing to me and because of this pop art and graffiti are high on the list of favorite styles. Andy Warhol’s work is also a huge gift because it characterizes a generation that I grew up in: the fabulous 80’s.

The exhibit blew me away. I knew he was fantastic painter and silkscreen artist and that he helped to lead the pop art movement. But, I didn’t know was that he was also an illustrator, filmmaker, record producer, director, author, editor, photographer, and magazine creator. Literally, he touched on every form of media imaginable in his time. Warhol’s greatest gift to us was his strong association to American society and everything that it encompasses. Everything he created was iconic of pop culture.

So much of the exhibit I want to write about, but I will leave some surprises for those who will go see it after reading this. Two early works I stared at for awhile and had never seen before were spray paint and stencil pieces – Two Horns and Violin & Bow, both created in the 1950’s. They may have been the oldest pieces I have ever seen done by use of a spray can, so simple – just black paint and yet so impactful.

His silkscreen work was spectacular to see in person. Having worked in silkscreen a few years myself, I felt a deep rooted connection to these pieces beyond just their cultural relation. This Side Up - 1962, was a personal favorite. It just says, “This side up” over and over again. It’s all done in one color: Red. One of his quotes painted on the wall in this section of the exhibit simply said, “I like boring things. I like things to be the same over and over again.” Many of his pieces are simply amazing because of their repetition. The creation of one original work is astonishing but to recreate the same, over and over again is a different kind of amazing. It shows true dedication and the goal for perfection. Also shown were his Brillo Boxes, from 1964 and 1969. Twenty Brillo Boxes – all identical; he once said, "I'm painting this way because I want to be a machine." So many of his subjects were images from advertising or mass media and in so many ways he embraced our culture. Yet in so many others, he forced us to look at the commercialistic and impersonal society that we had become.

Many of his album covers, posters, bits of films, and photography were also key elements of the exhibit. Rolling Stones, “Can’t Get No Satisfaction” played as you entered a Studio 54 inspired room, with a disco ball and art and film projected on the walls. My favorite was of course the, Night Clubbing Section, where his brightly painted portraits of Capote, Liza Minnelli, Michael Jackson, Dolly Parton, Prince and so many other celebrities all hung in unison. But it was his copies of Interview Magazine (1970-86) that were the most compelling for me. He founded the gossip magazine and used it to promote celebrities, friends, companies, and products that he endorsed. Sounds so much like this Azy Does It girl I know. There’s a little Warhol in all of us, I suppose. The exhibit will be up at the de Young Museum, in San Francisco until May 17. Do yourself a favor and go.